Travel Destinations

Friday, February 14, 2014

Is The Guidebook Dead? An Evening of Travel Tips with Pauline Frommer

Is the guidebook dead?  Pauline Frommer certainly doesn’t think so.  But the travel guidebook is evolving and the Frommers are working hard to make sure guidebooks are still relevant for the new generation of travel.  I was fortunate enough to attend a travel presentation and book signing featuring Pauline Frommer recently.  The travel presentation wasn’t a pitch for the guidebooks, but rather an evening of Ms. Frommer providing some really good travel tips, her pick for top 2014 travel destinations, and inspirational travel stories. 

Airfare Deals

Ms. Frommer recommended three websites for searching for airfare:,, and  She also mentioned a tip I think many know, to book on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  The reason is many airlines release their sales on Monday evenings, and then other airlines start to follow suit on Tuesday and Wednesday to compete.  She also shared that six weeks prior to traveling is the sweet spot for booking the best airfare deals. 

Travel agencies are also good sources for budget airfare, especially travel agencies specializing in the destination country.  Ms. Frommer told a story of purchasing tickets to Japan with a travel agency specializing in travel to Japan, and they knew of an airline giving a large discount for tickets purchased with a MasterCard, saving her family hundreds of dollars.  She also urged following airlines on Twitter, as the current trend is for airlines to offer flash sales via Twitter that only last for a few hours.


Pauline Frommer giving travel tipsMs. Frommer provided a number of suggestions for websites offering deals on accommodations including,,,,, and  Some of these sites include boutique hotels, rather than just the standard large hotel chains.  She also suggested when used in conjunction with, which is a website where travelers who have booked through Priceline then report what hotel was booked at what price so other travelers can see which hotels are trending.  She gave an example of a high-end luxury hotel on the Gold Coast of Hawaii which consistently sells rooms through Priceline at $140 per night.  She also mentioned alternative styles of accommodations, such as,, and

Volunteer Vacations

A new trend is to mix vacation with volunteering.  Some short volunteer vacation programs include Parismina Turtles, Give Kids The World Village, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, and Colorado Trail Foundation.  Give Kids The World Village is a non-profit resort in Central Florida that provides free vacations to children with life-threatening diseases and their families.  The resort is created to accommodate all needs of these children, including wheelchair accessible playgrounds. Longer term volunteer vacations are offered by Global Volunteers, Earthwatch, Vaughan Systems, and American Hiking Society.


There is no denying cruising is one of the most popular ways people vacation.  Plus they can be very inexpensive.  Ms. Frommer emphasized using a travel agent, as they can find the perfect ship for you.  Not all cruise ships are created equally.  Cruise ships differ even within the same cruise company.  If you don’t wish to use a travel agent, I suggest studying the ship’s amenities before booking to make sure it fits your needs and wants.  Repositioning cruises can offer great deals as low as $40 per night.  If you aren’t planning on hanging out in your cabin, booking an inside cabin can help save money, plus there is less chance of seasickness in an inside cabin.  Booking during “hurricane season” can also be a money saver.  Hurricane season and pricing runs June through November, but hurricanes are far less likely in November, yet the cheaper pricing still applies. 

The most important tip for saving money when cruising?  Do not book excursions through the cruise company.  This is where you will throw away money.  An excursion to a waterfall might cost $40-$60 through the cruise company, while you can get to that same waterfall and join the same guided tour for the cost of $1.50 bus ride each way.  If you do want to book an excursion rather than self-touring, use websites such as,, and, which offer excursions at lower prices than the cruise companies and with smaller groups.

Frommer’s New Look

I know many of this blog’s readers don’t use guidebooks much anymore.  But I do think guidebooks, in conjunction with word of mouth, blogs like this one, and other internet sites, play an important role in travel planning.  During the question and answer portion of the evening Pauline Frommer spoke of the new style of Frommer’s guidebooks.

Last year’s news was that nine months after the Frommer’s brand was sold to Google, Arthur Frommer purchased back the brand after it was reported Google would no longer be printing the Frommer’s travel books.  While Frommer’s is a household name, Frommer’s has now become a startup company once again.  This is why there is currently a shortage of Frommer’s books on the bookstore shelves.  Frommer’s is getting back into the guidebook game with their new series of Frommer’s EasyGuides.  These guides focus on sharing the best sites and experiences rather than listing every possible site, restaurant and hotel, resulting in a much thinner book.  However, there have been complaints by travelers who, like me, prefer to peruse those thick guidebooks, so they will be releasing more comprehensive guidebooks in addition to the new EasyGuide series.

I am a lover of all books, but especially travel books and guides, so it was a thrill to sit in the middle of a standing room only crowd listening to Pauline Frommer speak at Warwick’s, the country’s oldest family-owned and operated bookstore, and know that the Frommer’s guidebooks would be returning to my guidebook rotation.  But it was also a treat to learn from this seasoned traveler so many tips and tricks to finding the best travel deals that will help make travel more affordable for us all.

What are your best money-saving travel tips?  Do you still use guidebooks?

Travel the World: Travel tips from Pauline Frommer.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.